Tag Archives: Senior Vice President

Our approach to free expression and controversial content

Four years ago we first outlined our approach to removing content from Google products and services. Nothing has changed since then, but given World Day Against Cyber-Censorship is coming up on Monday, March 12, we figured now was a good time for a refresher. Here goes.

At Google, we have a bias in favor of free expression—not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people. As Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

That said, we recognize that there are limits. In some areas it’s obvious where to draw the line. For example, we have an all-product ban on child pornography. But in other areas, like extremism, it gets complicated because our products are available in numerous countries with widely varying laws and cultures.

For Search—where we are simply indexing content—we take down as little as possible because helping people find information goes to the heart of our mission. We remove webpages from our search index when required by law, and we post a notice to Chilling Effects when we do so. For example, if we’re notified about specific pages that glorify Nazism, which is prohibited by German law, then we remove those specific pages from Google.de (our German domain).

For products like Blogger, orkut, Google+ and YouTube—where we host the content—we encourage users to express themselves freely, but we also want to ensure that people behave responsibly, so we set guidelines covering the use of our different services. For example, no hate speech, no copyright-infringing content, no death threats, no incitement to violence. And when we’re notified about content that either violates those guidelines or breaks the law—for example, we receive a court order—we will remove it, or restrict it in the country where it’s illegal. Earlier this year, for example, we removed a number of specific webpages from Google properties in India after a court ruled that they violated Indian law.

One final point—none of this is simple. Dealing with controversial content is, well…controversial. It’s why we always start from the principle that more information is better, and why we’ve worked hard to be transparent about the removals we make.

How our cloud does more with less

We’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of energy our services use. In fact, to provide you with Google products for a month—not just search, but Google+, Gmail, YouTube and everything else we have to offer—our servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours. And, because we’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero.

We’ve learned a lot in the process of reducing our environmental impact, so we’ve added a new section called “The Big Picture” to our Google Green site with numbers on our annual energy use and carbon footprint.

We started the process of getting to zero by making sure our operations use as little energy as possible. For the last decade, energy use has been an obsession. We’ve designed and built some of the most efficient servers and data centers in the world—using half the electricity of a typical data center. Our newest facility in Hamina, Finland, opening this weekend, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity.

Whenever possible, we use renewable energy. We have a large solar panel installation at our Mountain View campus, and we’ve purchased the output of two wind farms to power our data centers. For the greenhouse gas emissions we can’t eliminate, we purchase high-quality carbon offsets.

But we’re not stopping there. By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects and companies, we’re helping to create 1.7 GW of renewable power. That’s the same amount of energy used to power over 350,000 homes, and far more than what our operations consume.

Finally, our products can help people reduce their own carbon footprints. The study (PDF) we released yesterday on Gmail is just one example of how cloud-based services can be much more energy efficient than locally hosted services helping businesses cut their electricity bills.

Visit our Google Green site to find out more.